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12 best hikes in the Peak District National Park

12 best hikes in the Peak District National Park

The best hikes in the Peak District National Park showcase some of England’s finest and most accessible hillwalking countryside

When we made our move to the country, we very nearly ended up in the Peak District. It was a toss-up between there and the Yorkshire Dales, but in the end, the pull of the Dales was just a touch too strong.

The Peak District, however, came a very close second. Wedged between the northern cities of Manchester and Sheffield, the Peak District National Park may well be England’s most accessible wilderness.

Britain’s first national park is an idyllic landscape with a vast range of natural beauty. The occasionally bleak but eternally beautiful Pennine countryside boasts dramatic waterfalls, deep dales, rocky crags, quaint market towns and cosy villages seemingly untouched by time.

It is one of England’s premier hiking destinations – ideal for micro-adventures – and is supported by excellent infrastructure with a breadth of accommodation, eating and drinking options. 

Best hikes in the Peak District National Park

We’ve handpicked the best hikes in the Peak District National Park to suit all abilities, from breezy afternoon jaunts to more demanding multi-day treks.

For more information on further activities, access details, and accommodation options, visit the national park website.

1. Mam Tor

Distance: 14km (9mi)
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Medium

Mam Tor in the Peak District
Daniel_Kay/Shutterstock Mam Tor at sunrise

Mam Tor is a 517m (1,696ft) hill known as the ‘Shivering Mountain’ following a number of landslips down its slopes. Located near Castleton in the High Peak area of Derbyshire, it offers one of the best hikes in the Peak District and has been described as England’s greatest ridge walk.

The stone-surfaced footpath boasts some of the most accessible and dramatic views in the Peak District. The circular route also takes in the charming villages of Castleton and Hope which make for ideal refreshment stops.

2. Kinder Scout

Distance: 27km (17mi)
Duration: 7-9 hours
Difficulty: Medium-hard

Kinder Scout is one of the best hikes in the Peak District
Irina Poliakova/Shutterstock Kinder Scout is one of the best hikes in the Peak District

This full-day circular hike winds its way around a vast upland plateau with plunging views throughout. En route, walkers will pass the dramatic waterfall of Kinder Downfall, and can complete the hike with an optional but entertaining scramble across Grindsbrook Clough.

The loop can be walked in either direction but most tend to hike anti-clockwise. The route can also be cut short by skipping across the plateau at any point although expect the terrain to be boggy underfoot.

3. Saddleworth Moor

Distance: 12km (7.5mi)
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Medium

Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District
SAKhanPhotography/Shutterstock Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District

This wonderful hike traces its way across the northern perimeter of the Peak District National Park connecting the villages of Marsden and Uppermill. The path traces the high moors between the Colne and Tame valleys, a route steeped in local history.

The trail enjoys a fantastic cross-section of classic South Pennine scenery as well as some unique landmarks such as Standedge Tunnel, Saddleworth Viaduct and Redbrook Reservoir.

4. Bakewell to Chatsworth

Distance: 12km (7.5mi)
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

The village of Bakewell
Marbury/Shutterstock The village of Bakewell

No visit to Derbyshire or the Peak District would be complete without a jaunt to Bakewell to sample that pudding (just don’t call it a tart!). Aside from the delicious dessert, Bakewell is famed for its nearby idyllic trails threading the pools and meadows of Calton Pastures.

This gentle hike takes in a number of stately homes and charming villages, and offers the chance to spot Chatsworth’s famous herds of red and fallow deer that roam the parkland.

5. The Roaches

Distance: 10km (6mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

A climber enjoys the view from the Roaches
Sponner/Shutterstock A climber enjoys the view from the Roaches

The Roaches ridgeline is famous for its purple heather which explodes into colour in late summer. The Roaches are also popular with rock climbers and were long used as a training ground for the mountaineers of yore. While climbers and boulderers still frequent the crags, you’re more likely to come across ramblers on this outstanding trail.

The figure-of-eight route takes in a dramatic ridge walk before dropping quickly into a moss-covered gorge before looping back and tracing the gorge on the opposite side.

At one point there was a colony of wallabies residing in the area after a local zookeeper released the animals in 1940 when wartime regulations ordered the closure of private zoos. Unfortunately, after initially flourishing, it’s believed the colony of marsupials are now extinct, although there have been sporadic alleged sightings reported.

6. Chrome Hill

Distance: 10km (6mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

the Dragon’s Back is one of best hikes in the Peak District
Daniel_Kay/Shutterstock How can anyone resist hiking the Dragon’s Back?

How can one resist a hike along this striking string of limestone hills known as the Dragon’s Back? A miniature massif rises from the surrounding hay meadows near Buxton and provides some of the most memorable views in Derbyshire.

Often referred to as the only true peaks in the Peak District, Chrome Hill rarely disappoint its walkers. The distinctive line of seven serrated summits is said to resemble the giant ‘plates’ found along the spine of a stegosaurus dinosaur.

After topping out on the Dragon’s Back it’s only polite to swap your tales of derring-do over a pint and a pickled egg in the cosy Quiet Woman Inn pub in Buxton.

7. Padley Gorge

Distance: 4km (2.5mi)
Duration: 1-2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

The River Derwent along Padley Gorge
Paolo Sanna 90/Shutterstock The River Derwent along Padley Gorge

This quick and quiet amble through a wooded valley along the River Derwent offers an alternative view of the Peak District. There are no dragons or summits along Padley Gorge; only a wizened forest, babbling brooks, a pleasant cafe and an 18th-century hotel, bar and restaurant (located just off the trail).

The woods look their finest in autumn when the vibrant oranges and reds of the foliage complement the deep greens of the mossed boulders scattered across the valley slopes.

8. Monsal Dale / Monsal Trail

Distance: 7.4km (4.6mi) / 14km (8.5mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

Headstone Viaduct at Monsal Head
BerndBrueggemann/Shutterstock Headstone Viaduct at Monsal Head

Back to the high trails, this charming path follows a former railway line running through the heart of the White Peak region. It takes in waterside paths and a wooded gorge as well as the Headstone Viaduct, a striking relic of the region’s industrial heritage.

The walk starts and finishes at Monsal Head but can easily be extended to include the villages of Little Longstone and Great Longstone by continuing along the Monsal Trail. Both villages have delightful pubs serving hearty fare.

The entire Monsal Trail – 14km (8.5mi) long and running all the way to the aforementioned Bakewell and its delicious puddings – is well worth considering.

9. Birchover

Distance: 8.6km (5.3mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

Nine Stone Close Stone Circle with Robin Hood’s Stride in the background
Simon Harrod/CC 2.0 Nine Stones Close Stone Circle with Robin Hood’s Stride in the background

The region encompassing the village of Birchover is a magical landscape, if not downright eerie. The countryside here is littered with primeval burial mounds, dramatic gritstone escarpments, pointed standing boulders and mysterious ancient stone circles.

To top it off, this cryptic landscape is either concealed deep within a murky woodland or exposed on a wild and windswept plateau. Brimming with history and mythology, this not-to-be-missed trail also boasts some of the most fantastical names in England: The Grey Ladies, Nine Stones Close Stone Circle and Robin Hood’s Stride to name but a few.

10. Hathersage and Stranage Edge

Distance: 9.5km (6mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

Climbers at the top of Stanange Edge
Tom_Sanderson/Shutterstock Climbers at the top of Stanage Edge

This trail takes walkers through the beautiful valley believed to have inspired several literary classics. The trail passes North Lees Hall, a 16th century manor that is thought have inspired Mr Rochester’s home in Jane Eyre, and Stanage Edge where hikers can do their best impression of Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice.

Classics aside, the awesome cliffs of Stanage Edge offer magnificent views across some of the Peak District’s most famous landscapes including the Derwent and Hope Valleys, Mam Tor and Kinder Scout.

11. The Limestone Way

Distance: 74km (46mi)
Duration: 3 days
Difficulty: Hard

The village of Castleton
Steve Meese/Shutterstock The village of Castleton

The Peak District’s best and most famous long-distance footpath could – at a push – be completed in two days. However, it’s far more enjoyable to spread the distance across three or even four days if you really want to take your time absorbing the scenery.

The Limestone Way begins in the village of Castleton and heads southwards, winding its way through the huge limestone plateau of the White Peak Derbyshire dales. Apart from the exceptional countryside, the trail passes through a number of picturesque villages en route to Rocester.

12. PENNINE WAY

Distance: 45km (28mi)
Duration: 2 days
Difficulty: Hard

The Pennine Way in the Peak District
Wutthikrai Busayaporn/Shutterstock The Pennine Way picks its way through the Peak District

Britain’s oldest trail (opened in 1965) traverses some of the finest upland landscapes in England. It is by far the most famous and one of the most popular of Britain’s long-distance footpaths.

The Pennine Way begins in Edale in the Peak District and runs 431km (268mi) northwards, all the way to the Scottish Borders. If you don’t fancy the full thru-hike, the Peak District section naturally showcases the very best of the national park and takes in many of the above trails.


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Lead image: DANIEL_KAY/SHUTTERSTOCK

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